Jax Unplugged

As I had mentioned possibly doing in a previous post, I did indeed take the plunge and spent 24 hours without my cell phone, internet, Facebook, e-reader, TV, or any other of my usual electronic distractions. At midnight Friday night/Saturday morning, I went dark. I shut down my computers, my iPad, and my cellphone. Right away, I noticed the silence more than anything else. I always have some kind of noise in the background, either music or a television show. Instead, I was surrounded by the quiet. The next thing I noticed was that I could not recall the date and I didn’t have a calendar anywhere in the house. I finally was able to remember, and I had to get a piece of paper to work the rest of the month backwards. Instead of my usual bedtime routine, which consists of putting in a DVD and falling asleep to the tv, or playing some music on my iPad and falling asleep to that, I grabbed my Bible and did some reading, something I don’t do as often as I should. It helped me relax and sleep quite well. Then came the easiest six hours of the day – I fell asleep. I woke up and realized I wasn’t sure what time it was. I use my iPad as an alarm clock, and my cellphone has been my watch. I had to grab my wristwatch, which I haven’t worn for months, yet was still accurate, in order to keep track of the time. And when I was ready to head out, I had to physically look through my CDs in order to find music for the car. I had come to depend on my e-toys for everything and just taken for granted I had everything I needed or wanted right at my fingertips.

I drove out to Orlando, met up with a friend, and headed out to Disney with him. We got to enjoy the park for about an hour before the rain began. We headed out and spent several hours at a Chick-fil-a, just talking, although we were interrupted a LOT by his cell phone. Normally, I wouldn’t have even noticed it, because I would be just as busy with my phone. But, not having mine made me more aware of his. And not only his, but also those of other people around us.

Afterwards, we headed to his house. I hung out a little longer, and then I headed back to Lakeland. On a whim, I decided to drive out to Lake Hollingsworth. I parked my car and walked around the lake, which took almost an hour. It was a very nice, quiet walk, and very exhausting as well. Then I headed home.

By the time I got home, it was a bit after eight. I stretched out on my couch with the book I’d started re-reading that morning, “The Colorado Kid”, by Stephen King. Not too long after, I started feeling tired. (Ten PM! On a Saturday night!) I took my book and lay down on my bed, waiting patiently for midnight. Next thing I knew, I opened my eyes and it was 2:13 am! Twenty-six hours after I had shut them down, I turned on my computers and rejoined the world of the connected.

Some people have asked me what the whole point of this experiment was. Was it a life-altering experience? Sadly, no. I am online and attached to my electronic gadgets just as much as before. But, the point of it was to get me out of the box, which I accomplished. I have been very comfortable in my distractions and have come to look at my phone almost like a security blanket, and walking around without that blanket was very uncomfortable. It made me aware of the dependence I have on these things, and the lack of dependence I have on the important things in life – friends, family, God. And acknowledging the issue is the first step to doing something about it.

Will I do this again? Maybe. While I’m attending online classes, it’s not possible, but maybe during my Christmas break, and maybe more often once I’m done with school at the end of January. In the meantime, I will be doing the blackouts on a smaller scale, such as the last hour of the night, where I can spend the time with God without interruption. All in all, as difficult and uncomfortable as this was, I’m glad I did it.

I Am…Not The Biggest Loser

By midweek I was wondering if an opportunity for out of the box living would present itself. I’ve already gotten an idea of what I want to do for next week. I will have the week off from classes, so I figured next Saturday I will try to spend 24 hours away from my technological distractions – my phone, my computers, my iPad, even my nook. I don’t know yet if I’ll go through with it, but that’s my tentative plan.

Thursday, my opportunity for this week presented itself. Auditions were being held for the Biggest Loser on Saturday. Although most people don’t believe it, I weigh over 300 pounds and could use the help. Although this is the third audition in a month, I don’t intend out-the-box living to be only about auditions. I think it’s just these auditions helped me solidify the idea of out-of-the-box living.

So, I got up early this morning, ready for my shot. The casting call started at 10, so I figured if I got there by 8 or 8:30, I should be in good shape, line-wise. This was taking place at the Groove at Citiwalk, which meant I would be parking at Universal again.

I got to Universal by 8:30 and the first major difference between this audition and the Voice presented itself – I had to pay for parking. I got to the casting line and was number 161. “Excellent,” I thought to myself, “Shouldn’t take that long at all.” Famous last words.

Although casting was supposed to start at ten, the doors didn’t open till 10:30. Then it seemed the line moved like molasses, which surprised me. There were more than 160 people just waiting outside when I went to the Voice and we were inside sitting within the hour. Not so here.

I found out later that there was a VIP line on the side, so number 161 was probably closer to 322. At around 4, my group was finally able to go in.

Similar to the Voice, the ten of us auditioned simultaneously. We had a about a minute each to tell why we thought we should be on the show. After we were done, we were told that callbacks would be done by eight. I didn’t get a callback. But, again, the experience was worthwhile.

Biggest Loser casting line in front of Fat Tuesday? Really?

Making My Voice Heard

As I mentioned earlier today, I tried out for the Voice. This is the most out-of-the-box experience so far, even more so than the Millionaire tryouts and nothing like I imagined it would be.

Here’s what I imagined. I got the audition ticket that said I should show up at 2pm. I imagined I would show up around 1:30, be in at 2 and maybe out by 3, 4 at the latest. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I left the house with what I figured would be enough time to get to the Royal Pacific hotel. The first hiccup was the sign outside the hotel entrance that all Voice auditioners were to park at the nearby Universal Studios and a shuttle would transport us to the hotel.

By now it was 1:45. It was going to be tight but I figured I could still make it by two. Enter hiccup number two.

I pulled into the entrance to Universal only to find traffic backed up. Not only that, but I realized I would have to pay the parking fee of $15 only to try out. At that point, I almost decided to just go home. I’m glad I didn’t give in to that impulse.

After many, many minutes of waiting I finally got up to the parking attendant and got my first bit of good news. Parking was free for all who were auditioning for the Voice. I managed to park and head for the shuttle by ten after 2. Not too bad.

On the shuttle, I received quite the wakeup call. The girl sitting next to me had auditioned in the morning (she was now accompanying her mother) and had waited five hours before finally auditioning. Not only that, but out of 4,000 who had auditioned a total of 4 had gotten callbacks. When I got to the hotel and saw the amount of people outside waiting to get in, I realized I might be in for a long wait too.

Although the wait was long, the process was efficient. Once I got in the hotel, I was directed to a room that had about a dozen lines. While waiting in this line I got to talk to others around me. Everyone was very nice and friendly. When I got to the end of the line, I was given a wristband and led to the next room. This room sat probably close to 500 at a time. I got to sit in this room for a while, watching as those before me were led out in groups of 10. This room was mostly quiet. Again, not at all what I expected. Watching all those singing competition shows, I expected a lot of noise and energy, but, except for the occasional outburst, it was mostly quiet and uneventful.

Then it was time for my group of ten. We were led out of that room and into a smaller room that held around 200 or so. This would be the last room before the audition. The energy in this room was more like what I expected. People were taking turns singing and there were some amazing voices! Others would clap or sing along. It was a lot of fun. We waited in that room for a long time as well.

Finally, it was time for the audition. We were taken in groups of ten again, and brought outside another room, where we were briefed on what to expect. The ten of us would audition together, a minute for each of us, a cappella. We entered the room and sat in a row. Our judge was Romeo, the vocal coach for the show. Each of us, in turn, got up, gave some info about ourselves, then sang. I sang “Your Song” by Elton John. Then, when we were all done, it was judgment time.

Romeo explained to all of us that the bar had been raised so much higher this year than last because so many more were auditioning, and he’d heard some really good voices from us and suggested one to three months of vocal training to improve them. Sadly, no one in our group made it through.

By the time I headed out, it was 7:30, five and a half hours after I arrived. But, you know what? I enjoyed every moment of it and I’m glad I did it. Here’s to living out of the box.

Let There be Light!

Today I got to go to a Photoshop training seminar called Light It Shoot It Retouch It Live! At the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. It was a full day’s experience – very helpful and well worth the time and money.

The seminar focused on the steps a photographer could take from beginning to end in his photo shoot. Scott Kelby, who was the one teaching, would light the set, take the pictures and retouch them, all live. What I really enjoyed about it was that there was a companion workbook we were given that contained all that Scott was teaching, making sure that, if we forgot anything, we could look it up. Best part of the day was actually being able to talk to Scott Kelby and ask him a question.

Worst part of the day was lunch. I stood in line for a half hour in order to pay ten dollars for a hot dog and drink. And it wasn’t even a very good hot dog.

All in all, though, it was a good experience and I’ve already been able to put some of what I’ve learned into practice.